High Prevalence of Lifestyle Factors Attributable for Oral Cancer, and of Oral Potentially Malignant Disorders in Rural Sri Lanka

Document Type: Research Articles

Authors

1 Institute of Oral Health, Maharagama, Sri Lanka.

2 Menzies Health Institute Queensland and School of Dentistry and Oral Health, Griffith University, QLD 4222, Australia.

3 Dental Institute, King’s College London, WHO Collaborating Centre for Oral Cancer, United Kingdom.

Abstract

Background: Oral Cancer is a major public health problem in most of the South East Asian countries including Sri
Lanka. Use of tobacco in the form of smokeless tobacco and smoking, use of alcohol and betel quid chewing are the
major contributory factors for causation oral cancer. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of lifestyle
factors responsible for causation of oral cancer and Oral Potentially Malignant Disorders (OPMD) in the Sabaragamuwa
province of Sri Lanka. Methods: A cross-sectional community based study was conducted in Sabaragamuwa province
by interviewing, then conducting an oral examination, on 1029 subjects over 30 years of age, over a one year period from
November 2006. The study protocol included an interviewer-administered questionnaire to gather socio-demographic
factors, recording of habits that included areca/betel chewing, smoking, and alcohol consumption. A three-day food diary
was obtained, particularly to assess the consumption of tea, fruits and vegetables. The weight and height of residents
was taken for calculation of Body Mass Index (BMI). Results: One hundred and two individuals with one or more
OPMD were detected among these 1029 subjects. The prevalence of OPMD, weighted according to the estate sector and
gender, was estimated as 11.3%. The prevalence of daily betel quid chewing in this study was 53.8%: 15.7% without
tobacco and 47.4% with tobacco. The prevalence of individuals who reported consumption of alcohol at least weekly
was 13.4%. A significant minority, 31.7%, were under nourished, with a BMI < 18.5. Forty six percent of the males
practiced combined habits of betel quid chewing, smoking and regular use of alcohol. Conclusions: This study discloses
high prevalence of OPMD and of lifestyle factors for oral cancer in these communities. There is an urgent need for
a comprehensive strategy to control the use of tobacco, betel quid chewing and alcohol for prevention of oral cancer.

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